Under Bright Lights (eBook Excerpt)

author: TiaZenSin date: 03/18/2014 category: fiction
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Under Bright Lights (eBook Excerpt)
We managed to squeeze six practices into the two weeks leading up to our first show as a band. Meghan, Jen and I even managed to settle on a name for the group: "Lady Art Rock," which seemed annoyingly pretentious and irritating, and therefore absolutely perfect. We wanted to get up on stage and confuse people. We wanted to make them wonder if we were good or bad. We were going to attack them with noise and sexy-cuteness all in one stroke, then leave them to wonder what it all meant.

At least, that's what we told ourselves. We actually had no idea if it would work, or if we would be any good at all.

"Don't worry about it," said Jen. She'd been in two bands before, and she'd slid into the role of the rock veteran. "It usually takes a band several shows to find their sound. We don't even know who we are as artists yet. This is just a first step."

"Very reassuring," I said. We'd just finished our last rehearsal, in Jen's apartment. Everything we'd done so far had been at half-volume to avoid noise complaints from her neighbors, so we weren't even sure what we would sound like turned way up. We weren't too worried about it thought. How bad could we be? A drummer, a guitarist, and me doing some kind of spoken word stuff, and dancing a little. The worst we could be is terrible, right?

To be honest, I was getting nervous.

The show was on a Friday night at the Festival Art Gallery, a store-front gallery that was heavily trafficked by the university crowd. It didn't draw much donor money or commercial sales revenue, and survived on government grants and a steady stream of fundraisers to make rent. Our show was one of the fundraisers, and we were going to be the first of four bands to play. Like the other bands, we were donating our time, meaning that we weren't going to be paid for our performance. That was okay. Chances were good we were going to be terrible anyway, so we likely wouldn't deserve to be paid.

On the night of the show I dressed up as sexy as possible, without looking like either a stripper or a prostitute, going with a short black skirt and tight white top combination. I threw on some fishnet tights and a pair of black leather boots to complete the outfit. It was a little chilly, so I put on my leather jacket, grabbed my bag and headed out.

Since we were on first, we had to be there the earliest, and I arrived at seven o'clock to find Meghan standing outside the the front doors having a cigarette. She had her guitar and amplifier with her. "Hey, baby," I said, walking up to join her. "Got one for me?"

"Seriously?" she said. She dug into her purse and pulled out her pack. "You know, actual smokers hate it when non-smokers bum cigarettes, because we know you don't really need them. You're just doing it to pose."

I held the cigarette between my lips and let her light it for me. "Thanks," I said. "But you're not really an actual smoker, are you? What do you smoke, two a day?"

"Yeah. But I'll probably have ten tonight. I'm nervous as f--k. You?"

I nodded and took a tiny drag on the cigarette. She was right, I was posing. Unless I'd already had a bunch of drinks, cigarettes made me feel a bit sick. "Yeah, I feel nervous," I said. "But that's what makes it exciting, right? Anyway, you look great."

"You're just saying that to make me feel good," she said with a smile. She did look good, though. Her tight jeans hugged her curvy hips, and her red hair was curled and teased into a gorgeous explosion. She'd done her makeup beautifully, and I started to feel a little weird about her, like I wanted to get her alone and kiss her. I thought for a moment about when she and I had slept together. It had been awesome, fulfilling a longtime crush, but I knew there wasn't really a romantic spark between Meghan and I, so I smoked her cigarette and looked away. Jen was coming soon. I could crush on her all I wanted.

We finished the cigarettes and went inside the gallery. There was a front alcove area and then the long, open gallery space. The walls on each side were lined with paintings, and tables were set up with sculptures.

Everything was numbered. All of the artwork was donated student art, which would be sold by silent auction to help keep the gallery afloat. As well, they would be taking money at the door, and selling beer and wine. It takes a lot of money to pay the rent downtown.

The event organizer, a skinny kid with a bowl cut and glasses named Alvin, was hanging around talking to the volunteers. He was a student at our art college, but he also worked at the gallery. He showed us the back room where we could leave our stuff and hang out before and after performing. The room was packed with gear already. I spotted Jen's banged-up little drum kit. I guess she'd come and gone already.

"How long do we have?" I asked Alvin.

"It would be great if you guys could start around eight-thirty. You'll have to give the stage to the next band at nine."

"What if the place is still empty?" Meghan asked him.

He shrugged. "We have four bands to fit in," he said. "If it's empty, it's empty. We want the last band done at midnight, so you'll have to be done at nine."

Meghan and I looked at each other and shrugged.

The gallery had a P.A. system and monitors set up with a microphone. Meghan set up her guitar and amp, plugged in and tuned up. "It would be nice if Jen would show up so we could do a sound check," she grumbled. 

I pulled out my phone and called her. She answered, and then I saw her walk in from the alcove with the phone pressed to her ear. "What?" she said, smiling as she approached us. "What's wrong? Did you think I forgot?"

"Finally," said Meghan. She was still sitting on her amp, noodling with her guitar. I couldn't even think of anything to say; I was too busy staring at Jen. I was used to seeing her in casual clothes: ripped jeans, t-shirts, sweaters and stuff like that. For the show she was fully glammed up, with her hair done and her makeup dark and dramatic. She shuffled off her coat and walked to the back room. I followed like a puppy.

Jen was wearing an off-the-shoulder black top and metallic silver legging that showed off her legs and butt. I was staring and I couldn't help it, but luckily Meghan followed us back there and got things moving before Jen noticed how dopey I looked.

"Come on," Meghan said. "Let's get your drums set up."

We each grabbed parts of the drum kit and quickly hauled it all out to the main gallery room. There really was no stage; we would simply be playing at one end of the room in a small area delineated by the small sound monitors and their cables. We quickly set up Jen's drum kit near the back wall. I couldn't keep my eyes off her as we worked.

She looked beautiful. As the vocalist, I was ostensibly the focal point for the audience. Meghan was the band leader and seemed to have the most input into how we sounded, but Jen was clearly the rock chick among us. She just seemed to breath credibility into us. Maybe it came from her calm attitude, her experience. Or maybe I was just blown away by her at that moment. My crush on her was going to the next level.

At eight o'clock we were all set up. The gallery doors opened for the event, and a few people started drifting in. The band that would be going on after us showed up too. They were also a new group, but they were a much more typical college band: four dudes who looked scared out of their minds and were overcompensating by drinking beers too fast and talking too loud.

Meghan slipped outside for another cigarette. There was a couch in the back room, and Jen sat down. I brought two bottles of beer and joined her. It felt awkward, both because I felt such a strong desire for her at that moment, and also because we were almost never alone together. Not since we'd hooked up in my apartment nearly two weeks before.

"Thanks," she said, taking a bottle from me. "Cheers. To first gigs."

"Cheers," I said, and we clinked bottles and drank. "I'm popping my cherry."

"Yeah right," she said. "Something tells me you popped your cherry a looong time ago."

"B-tch," I said, grinning. "I meant my gig cherry."

"I know. I'm just teasing." She looked at me and smiled. "Are you nervous?"

I nodded. "Yeah, a bit. I'm worried I'll forget all the words, or f--k everything up somehow. I mean, what if we really suck? That would just be embarrassing."

"Nah," she said. "It's no big deal. We've only been playing together for a few weeks. How good can we be?" She could see that didn't make me feel any better. "Look at it this way. The first time the Sex Pistols played a show they were so terrible that they had the power pulled on them. And they still ended up being a really important band. So who cares, right?"

I took a gulp of my beer. "You're actually pretty bad at reassuring people, did you know that?"

(This is an excerpt from the full ebook, which is available for all devices at Smaswords.com. Visit my profile page to learn more.)
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